Have you ever wondered why your neighbors’ carpets look as though they have been bought yesterday and yours look dull and drab in comparison? That too when yours are newer, finer and more expensive? The answer is not far to seek, since we are sure that your carpets are not so well maintained and cleaned as your neighbors.
Popularly held notions that placing carpets on the floor is a convenience since floors will not need sweeping and mopping everyday, are not entirely true. There is no doubt that the daily cleaning ritual is not required, but once or twice a week, double the amount of effort needs to be put in to remove dust and dirt. Over and above that, stains and marks need to be cleaned, corners need to be attended to, and some special steps carried out to preserve the sheen of your carpets.
However, the task of maintaining carpets is neither scary nor difficult. Read on, and you will find easy and quick ways of keeping your carpets clean, and looking new for years despite continuous use.
Why Should Your Carpets Always Be Clean
Carpets are meant to be tough, dust absorbers and floor protectors. Yet everyone likes to see them clean all the time. Here are a few reasons why:
-Cleaning preserves the life of the carpet
-Helps to provide a hygienic environment
-Removes allergies and related health problems
-Prevents bugs and germs from festering deep within the pile of the carpet
Before we get to the business of cleaning, it is important to know the different materials used to weave the carpets we all buy. The cleaning processes and routines are similar, though silk carpets need a little more attention because they are more delicate. Traditionally, carpets were hand woven but are now increasingly made by machines.
Some of the world’s finest carpets remain hand woven and carpet weaving is an art known to a limited skilled set of artisans and craftsmen. Used primarily indoors in homes, offices, commercial establishments and public gatherings, they are used to enhance the beauty of the place. Depending on the method of production and the fabric used, they are available in all price ranges, and vary in appearance and durability. The following are the commonly used materials for making carpets:
1) Wool- these are the warmest and most durable of all carpets, but ideally suited for colder climates. It has a unique piling quality and therefore gives a very rich look to the carpet. Used extensively for oriental rugs and carpets, this natural fabric also reduces risks of allergies.
2) Silk- these are the most luxurious and amongst the finest carpets available. It has a high tensile strength and this makes it a suitable weaving material. Slim carpets are meant for warmer, dry areas. They have to be maintained carefully since they are very delicate.
3) Jute and cotton are amongst the more popular carpet varieties since they are more reasonably priced, available in all sizes and designs, easier to maintain, are hand and machine made.
4) Synthetic carpets made out of artificial thread like nylon, polyester, acrylic or olefin are highly durable, very cheap, available in all shades and are the easiest to maintain since they do not get stained permanently, and are washable.
5) Bamboo and coir carpets have become a recent fad since they are the only eco-friendly carpets. While they cannot imitate the fine finish of wool and silk, they are increasingly in demand due to the increased awareness about preserving the environment.
Carpets made by hand can be hand-knotted, hand-tufted, braided or hand-woven. Others that are machine made have an entirely different texture. Hand made carpets have a thicker pile and dust and dirt may get more deeply imbedded than it would in a machine made carpet known for the smoothness of its surface.
General Carpet Cleaning Tips
Prevention- The first rule for keeping carpets clean is to prevent external contaminants from reaching the carpets. This means keeping outdoor shoes off the carpet, wearing home or carpet slippers, keeping a doormat to wipe feet before stepping on the carpeted surface.
Vacuum cleaning- For a vast majority of people, carpet cleaning means simple vacuuming. Whether they are floor carpets, rugs or wall-to-wall ones, all carpets, according to them, require a weekly vacuuming session. This is true but not sufficient to keep carpets in top condition for years on end. Vacuuming does remove all the superficial dust and dirt, gritty particles and food droppings. Special attention has to be paid to all the nooks and corners, crevices and gaps, and under furniture to make the carpet really clean.
An occasional quick vacuuming is acceptable but most times, it must be carried out thoroughly especially if the carpets are deep pile ones, into which dirt and particles tend to get deeply imbedded. These require higher suction levels of the vacuum cleaner to be pulled out. The best way to vacuum is to divide the entire carpet into squares or rectangles and cover each unit thoroughly and repeatedly, ensuring that the vacuum cleaner head is firmly pressed with adequate force to permit higher suction. Some experts recommend sprinkling salt on the carpet one hour before vacuuming the carpet. The cleaned carpet sparkles subsequently.
After vacuuming- This is something I saw my mother do for years on our decades old Persian carpet. Every week after vacuuming the carpet, she would take half a bucket of water, add a cup of vinegar and with a towel soaked in it, she would wipe the whole carpet. The result was a sheen to the carpet not noticed with a plain vacuuming. It kept the carpet looking great for a long time till the ends began to fray and the pile had flattened completely.
Stains, spots and spills- have the ability to spoil the richness of any carpet no matter how expensive. Therefore, these must be attended to and removed almost as soon as they are noticed. The longer the delay in cleaning them the more difficult to remove them since they get stubborn over time. The best thing to do is to try and wipe off a spill while it is still wet. In case it has dried and left a mark or stain, a cleaning solution may be required. Supermarkets offer many such liquids with clear instructions for use. It is best to first try the solution in a corner to ensure that it is safe for your carpet. Cleaning solutions are effective for removing chocolate stains, tea/coffee spills, crayon marks, mud stains that come in with shoes and many other blemishes. Check if the cleaning liquid should be left on the carpet for sometime before being wiped off, or whether water needs to be used at any stage.
The last stage must be drying off the carpet area that has been cleaned. Effective stain removers are often found at home in the kitchen. These include :
– Baking soda
– Club soda
– Mild detergent
– White Wine
– Hydrogen peroxide
– Carbonated water
The following list of stains will give you specific remedies for them:
Ink stains have to be treated in a manner different from other stains, since you must not use hot water or a circular rubbing motion, since both will spread the stain even more. The first step is to blot all the ink on the surface, without pressure. Next pour cold water on the spot of ink and immediately place an absorbent towel on it. Place a heavy object on the towel for a few minutes. Once this towel has been soaked with the diluted ink, place another dry towel and again apply pressure. If the ink has not been soaked completely, make a mixture of white vinegar and water in equal quantities. Apply some of this mixture to the area and gently brush it off. The stain will disappear without any need for force while brushing. Soak all the excess liquid, leaving the carpet dry.
Red wine, if spilled on the carpet is sure to leave a stain. The most effective cleaning agent for this is Club soda. Use a towel soaked in club soda to rub off the wine stain. If it persists, then something stronger, like a 25-75 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water would have to be used. Allow this mixture on the stain for half an hour before wiping it dry. Finish with a wipe of vinegar-water solution.
Food stains are easiest to remove with brake cleaners. Take a bit of the brake cleaner on a piece of cloth and apply on the stain. Rinse after a few minutes with mild soap and water.
Gum and wax can be removed by freezing them on the carpet with ice, and then breaking the frozen pieces with a knife and scraping them off.
Oil and grease can be removed by placing a piece of blotting paper on it and then moving a hot iron on it. The oil will transfer to the blotting paper. Repeat process, adding a bit of talcum powder will also help the oil to disappear.
Bloodstains can be unpleasant on a carpet. Most of them can be removed by applying a detergent with a wet cloth and rubbing with a brush. If it persists, a few drops of ammonia must be sparingly used on the spot and washed away immediately before ammonia can affect the carpet.
Annual cleaning regimen- From time to time a deeper cleaning of the carpet is required. While it is possible to do it yourself, but professional jobs of cleaning are better and time saving without any risk to the carpet. Therefore, an annual cleaning of the carpet, maybe around Christmas or the Chinese New Year, should be part of your list of things to do. The selection of professional cleaners must be based on their expertise and specialization in carpet cleaning, the use of the best equipment for restoration of the carpet, be cost effective and trustworthy.
Maintaining Carpets and Care Beyond Cleaning
Keeping carpets clean is almost essential, but care and maintenance depend on individuals’ priorities. Carpets too have a life and are susceptible to wear and tear. A rip here, a tear there, frayed edges, all happen to carpets too. The idea to preserve them entails stitching in time to save them. A few simple tips for their care include:
– A broken thread can easily be cut to the level of the pile before it rips the weave.
– Deep marks of furniture placed on the carpet can be removed by stem ironing hat area to lift the depression.
– A larger carpet must be rolled over so that sides can be switched, so that it wears out evenly
– Direct exposure to sunlight will lead to fading colors and cause damage to the fibers. Therefore carpets must be protected from sunlight by drapes on windows.
– Woolen and silk carpets can get eaten up by pests like moths and carpet beetles that thrive in dusty places. One way out is to keep the carpets dust free.
– Never fold carpets during storage, but roll them instead. Folds can create weak areas along the fold lines and these will eventually make it crack and tear.
– Moisture can damage carpets. Whenever cleaned with wet sprays or cleaners or even water, every effort must be made to absorb as much of the liquid out of the carpet and leave it to dry completely.
– Attempt to maintain humidity and dryness levels- Carpets are sensitive to excessive moisture and dryness as well. Dryness will make the carpet fabric brittle enough to crack in places, while moisture may lead to mold and exude a musty odor.
– Any tear must be mended preferably by a professional before it becomes big. Fortunately the thick pile of expensive carpets will conceal the mend.
The last word in carpet maintenance is commitment. Treat it as you would any other expensive piece in your home that needs care and careful use, and see it last for decades.